DTI hands off on sugar price, supply issue

Anna Gabriela A. Mogato
DTI hands off on sugar price, supply issue
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez says sugar, a basic commodity, is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said it is not authorized to regulate the price of sugar or manage its supply, amid repeated calls from the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) for the agency to intervene. 

In a statement on Tuesday, April 23, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez pointed to Republic Act No. 7581 or the Price Act, which states that sugar is a basic commodity. The DTI can only regulate processed food such as canned goods. 

“Sugar is a basic commodity under the responsibility and jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture (DA),” Lopez said.

A report from the Philippine Star quoted SRA Board Member Dino Yulo as saying that traders were behind the increasing prices of sugar and the DTI has not been monitoring the irregularity. (READ: Sugar industry stakeholders seek changes to improve competitiveness)

However, the DTI can only regulate retail prices of sugar if the DA or the SRA gives it the authority to do so.

“The SRA, as an agency directly supervised by the agriculture department, should know this very well. We thus strongly advise them to take caution in making pronouncements and ensure its accuracy,” Lopez said.

Still collaborating

The DTI began assisting the DA in price monitoring for agricultural goods in August 2018, when the prices of basic agricultural products began to rise. This also led to the imposition of suggested retail prices (SRPs) for goods such as fish and onions.

Trade Undersecretary for Consumer Protection Group Ruth Castelo said the DTI is still monitoring agricultural products until now.

“The DTI is most willing to complement DA’s manpower to include monitoring of sugar among the products under our mandate, as we have already included chicken and other agricultural products, all for the protection of our consumers,” she said.

While the initial monitoring did not include sugar, Lopez said they already proposed an SRP of P50 per kilogram (kg) for refined sugar. So far, however, the SRA has not imposed any SRP.

In 2018, the DTI also launched its Presyong Risonable Dapat program which allowed retailers to directly import sugar, but also prevented these traders from selling white sugar and brown sugar higher than P50 per kg and P45 per kg, respectively.

However, the program is currently only being observed in Robinsons Supermarkets and SM Supermarkets, while Puregold is still in the process of doing so. (READ: Senate to look into planned deregulation of sugar imports)

In the meantime, retailers found selling sugar above P50 per kg were already issued letters of inquiry by the DTI. – Rappler.com

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